Banjup Disallowance motion

MRS Amendment 1221/41 Banjup
Disallowance motion – Lynn MacLaren MLC
28 11 12

I have moved to disallow the Banjup MRS amendment in the interests of better planning, and particularly, in this case, in the interests of conserving the Jandakot mound as one of Perth’s important water resources and in protecting future residents from noise impacts.

Where it is
The site of the proposed MRS amendment is within the City of Cockburn about 18 km south of the Perth Central Business District. It is 1.5 kms east of the Cockburn Central secondary centre and rail station, with access to Armadale Road and the Kwinana Freeway. It is close – too close – to Jandakot Airport.

Most of the land was previously a sand quarry. It has now been cleared and excavated and there is little of conservation value left on the site.

4 key reservations
•    Remnant vegetation, the king spider orchid and Carnaby cockatoos
•    Traffic impacts
•    Land use conflict - noise
•    Water

In a submission to the MRS amendment I expressed my support in principle for a higher density, mixed-use residential and commercial community development at Banjup subject to certain key concerns being satisfactorily addressed. 

In summary, my main concerns are:

1.    That the two areas of remnant vegetation abutting Bush Forever site 390 on the eastern side of the site, where the king spider orchid, Caladenia hueglii, has been found, should be preserved with adequate buffers;
2.    That the potential traffic impacts on the new development and surrounding areas be managed;
3.    That the potential land use conflicts be resolved, in particular the public health issue of noise from Jandakot airport; and
4.    That the investigation of potential water resource impacts should be thorough and transparent and the measures to address those impacts be satisfactory to all affected stakeholders.

Subject to my brief comments that follow, I am generally satisfied with the assurances from the Minister’s department that the issues of protection of remnant bushland and provision of transport infrastructure can be addressed.

However I am not satisfied that the potential impact to the Jandakot water source and the health impact of noise levels under a flight path to the Jandakot Airport can be managed. For these reasons I have moved to disallow this amendment.

1.    Remnant vegetation, the king spider orchid and Carnaby cockatoos
The proponents (Stockland) have expressed a commitment to retain and conserve in perpetuity the area of bushland that contains the king spider orchid. However there is a high level of concern that this bushland, as well as the adjoining bush forever site 390, will degenerate if residential development is situated next to it.

It is also likely that quendas and the endangered Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos periodically inhabit the site as the vegetation is of a type suitable for them.

There should be a full flora and fauna survey of the site and then a management plan to ensure that any rare and threatened species on the site are protected.

It is disappointing that the WAPC has not been willing to commit to such a survey, but states only that
 “the development will need to comply with State and Federal government environmental legislation”.

I hope the WAPC will reconsider and commit to a survey.

2.    Traffic impacts
I argued in my submission that the traffic impacts need to be mitigated to take account of the approaching decline of cheap oil and the consequent rising cost of transport. The Banjup area is largely car dependent and, if this development proceeds, measures will be needed urgently to improve public transport services and to ease congestion on existing roads, Armadale Road, in particular.

The potential to link this new residential area with the activity centres at Murdoch and Cockburn with light rail or high frequency bus networks should be investigated.

High quality pedestrian and cycling facilities will also be needed to encourage non-motorised trips within the precinct and to neighbouring locations.

Accordingly I support the submission of the Banjup Residents Group that

“The development of the subject land should not proceed before agencies such as MRWA, the Department of Transport and the City of Cockburn have funded and commenced construction of the required supporting infrastructure such as the Freeway interchange, upgrading of Armadale and Jandakot Roads, increased parking at the railway station and frequent shuttle bus services”.

3.    Potential land use conflicts
The proposed development abuts an industrial area to the west and is close to Jandakot Airport, for which, at present, the Banjup area is an effective noise buffer. This raises potential land use conflicts such as noise and industrial pollution affecting future residents if the MRS amendment is approved.

It is well established that the health impacts from noise include hypertension that leads over time to increased incidence of heart disease and stroke.

In relation to these concerns the WAPC states

 “The landowner also advises that all future residents will be notified regarding aircraft noise through notifications on title which will be imposed as conditions of subdivision approval. Additional building standards will be imposed such as noise insulation, double glazed glass, etc., to minimise the effect of aircraft noise and achieve higher acoustic standards.“
However given that the noise levels from the airport are likely to be greatest during the day and over weekends, when people are at home but outside, these measures will be insufficient to ameliorate the effects of the noise.

I argue that the location, under the flight paths to Jandakot airport, is not suitable for residential development.

4.    Potential water resource impacts
In my submission, my first recommendation in relation to the potential water resource impacts from a new development in Banjup was

“Ensure that the groundwater contamination risk of the proposed development is properly assessed and, if it is likely to result in an increased risk of groundwater contamination, reject the proposal”.

Having now read the Report on Submissions, I am persuaded that “proper assessment” has not occurred and that the risk to the Jandakot water mound is serious.

I am also concerned that there is an agenda that has not been disclosed and that we are trying to get to the truth in the half light of mixed messages and confidential documents.

4.1 Jandakot Groundwater Protection Policy SPP 2.3
The site is located in the Jandakot underground water pollution control area (P2 area). P2 areas have been identified to ensure there is no increased risk of pollution to the water source and are declared over land where low intensity development (such as rural) already exists.

• to ensure that all changes to land use within the Policy Area are compatible with long-term protection and maintenance of groundwater for public supply and maintenance of associated ecosystems;
• to prevent land uses likely to result in contamination of groundwater through nutrient or contaminant export;
• to balance environmental protection with the economic viability of the existing land uses;
• to maintain or increase natural vegetation cover over the Policy Area; and
• to protect groundwater quality and quantity in the Policy Area in order to maintain the ecological integrity of important wetlands hydraulically connected to that groundwater, including wetlands outside the Policy Area.

In relation to the preparation of town planning scheme amendments within the Policy Area, no residential, special residential, industrial or commercial zoning should be considered.

‘Special Rural’ or ‘Rural Residential’ zones will be considered, provided they conform with the Jandakot Land Use and Water Management Strategy.

Motivation for the review?
The WAPC is undertaking a general review of SPP 2.3, perhaps under pressure from landowners within the Jandakot water protection area who favour urbanisation to increase the value of land, and because the Kwinana desalination plant now provides up to 45 gigalitres of water per annum for the Perth metropolitan region which is not reliant on climatic conditions. 

If this is the actual or perceived motivation for the review it is of concern because where there is an outcome that has been predetermined as desirable, this casts doubt on the independence and integrity of the investigation.

And do we really want to replace the clean, cheap Jandakot mound water with an energy intensive process such as desalination?

Call to postpone MRS amendment until review of SPP 2.3 complete
A number of stakeholders called for the MRS amendment to be postponed until the review of SPP 2.3 has been completed, including, WALGA, a number of local residents and myself. The response was

“The WAPC does not consider the need to defer the finalisation of the proposed amendment pending the review of SPP 2.3”.

No explanation or justification is provided for this consideration.

A number of stakeholders also questioned why the proponent was given preference over other local landowners with equally suitable land for an urban “test case” for further development. The WAPC has stated that there will be no further development in the locality until the review of SPP 2.3 has been completed,  which begs the question about why an exception has been granted to Stockland prior to the completion of that review.
These questions have not been satisfactorily answered.

The MRS amendment should be postponed until the SPP 2.3 review has been completed.

4.2 Mixed messages from WAPC and the Department of Water
Some of the statements from some government agencies in the Report on Submissions bear closer scrutiny.

The WAPC states:

“In relation to the proposed amendment area, the DoW has approved a District Water Management Strategy for the site having regard to its strategic planning context, and is satisfied that the District Water Management Strategy provides sufficient water resource management information to demonstrate that the site can support urban land uses.”

Why the secrecy?
Firstly, the document cited – the District Water Management Strategy – which is relied on to reassure us that – contrary to all the cautionary words in SPP 2.3 – the site can support urban land uses, is confidential.
There are hydrological reports that are also confidential.

I ask the same question as I asked in relation to the Keralup amendment – why the secrecy?

If the work has been done, the investigation has been thorough, and the findings clear, why are they not published?

This lack of transparency in government proceedings is reprehensible and it is an insult to the West Australian community that we should be asked to accept a confidential document as evidence that the site is able to support urban land use.

Secondly, it appears that the position of the Department of Water is actually more complex than the statement attributed to it suggests. These are some statements from the Department of Water submission:

•    The Jandakot Mound is an important source of good quality groundwater abstracted for use with other sources to provide Perth's integrated water supply scheme;
•     “In order to protect the quality of public water supplies, the DoW does not advocate the intensification of development in public drinking water source areas due to increased risks to water quality and public health”;
•    The Department of Water notes that the DoP has confirmed the “planning potential” of the Banjup site pursuant to Directions 2031 and states “… if the WAPC confirms the strategic value of rezoning this site, a P3 area would be applied by the DoW to replace the current P2 area”;
In other words, the DoW will do as it is told by DoP, and then rely on a water strategy (that is not publicly available) to manage the water resource in the Jandakot mound.
Furthermore in the submission from the Banjup Residents Group opposing the MRS amendment it is stated

“In a letter to the Banjup Residents Group dated 2012, the Department of Water recommended ‘continued protection of the Jandakot groundwater resource because of its importance for Perth’s water supply … The priority areas that exist now have protected this valuable water resource and are recommended to continue’”.

This was less than a month prior to its submission to the WAPC supporting the MRS amendment.

Proper management of our water supply would ascribe final authority to the Department of Water, not the Planning Department.

 4.3 A test case
The WAPC has called the Banjup urban precinct a ‘test case’ for further development, But is it truly a test case or just a self-fulfilling prophesy?

There has been some intimation (in the Departmental briefing and from the Department of Water) that the water from the Jandakot mound may already be contaminated.

If the water is clean …
If this is the case, the source and extent of the contamination should be properly investigated. If the water is in fact clean, or the contamination minimal, the mound should not be put at risk by further development in the area and the imposition of a 300metre buffer around the wellhead that may not be effective.

In this regard the WAPC states that it will

“generally not support further re-zonings within the Jandakot groundwater protection area until the review of SPP 2.3 has been undertaken to enable consideration of the entire groundwater protection area …”.

The Department of Water has said, similarly, that until the review of SPP 2.3 has been completed, it

“will not consider or support any further urbanisation of land in the Jandakot UWPCA” (Underground water pollution control area).

The WAPC also notes that if the development proceeds, there will be pre- and post-monitoring of the ground water. But monitoring is just a furphy.  Pollution takes time to filter down into the groundwater, and by then the horse will have bolted. And if the development goes ahead, the risk of contamination increases.

Thus if monitoring – after the fact - reveals groundwater contamination, the WAPC can then argue that the mound is unsuitable for drinking water and the whole area may as well be urbanised.

Is this “test case” just a cynical exercise to close the water source and develop the whole area?

If the water is polluted …
If there is in fact already pollution of this drinking water source, it is a public health issue and the MRS should be put on hold until it has been investigated.

4.4 The risk to the groundwater is real
Liane Lied Cordruwisch (BSc Environmental science) is a member of the Banjup Residents Group who presented the case opposing the amendment. She explains that because the groundwater mound is an unconfined superficial aquifer, it is open to receive water from the surface, and the quality of that recharge water is of paramount importance. She states that at present the risk of contamination is low because the site is undeveloped which is

“the optimal situation for protecting groundwater”... “We know from studies that 15 to 28 per cent of rainwater is recharging directly this superficial aquifer. So, in other words, this - up to 28 per cent of rainwater - ends up in that aquifer. That is our drinking water.”

Ms Lied Cordruwisch says also that
 “A big problem that all unconfined aquifers have is that they are extremely susceptible to contamination from the surface. Whatever we put on the surface will eventually end up in the groundwater.”

So, once this site – and possibly the surrounding areas - are urbanised, there will be a change in the quality of the aquifer recharge, which will increase as a result of leaking sewage and water pipes, and decrease as a result of sealed surfaces and increased evaporation from those. There is also an increased risk of contamination via the storm drain run-off carrying household and garden chemicals, fertilisers, herbicides, and pesticides.

There is also the risk of pollution from vehicles and oil spills from accidents.
•    Fuel leaks at nearby Jandakot airport have already contaminated the groundwater and leaks from a soil blending plant on Acourt Road also caused groundwater pollution a few years ago.
•    I’m concerned that if development in this area goes ahead, the local production bores will fail to meet water quality standards after a few years. This has certainly been the experience elsewhere in Jandakot.
In conclusion Ms Cordruwisch states
 “We have serious doubts and concern about the assurances of a land developer and its experts that any detrimental impact on our drinking water can be managed. We cannot afford to take risks with our precious drinking water resource and the health of our community”.

I share those doubts and concerns.

In conclusion, because of the:
•    potential impact to the Jandakot water source; and
•    health impact of noise levels under a flight path to the Jandakot Airport,
I urge you to support the Disallowance.